Monday, May 13, 2013

Curried chicken salad

Good morning!  I hope all of you had a fabulous weekend.  I want to wish a belated happy Mother's Day to all the deserving ladies out there!  My very own mom and dad visited Pittsburgh yesterday for a lunch that my sister and I hosted at our apartment.  We included some of her favorite recipes, one of which I plan to share with you this week.  It was a relaxing afternoon spent with the people I love most -- doesn't get much better than that!

Speaking of ladies, it's fitting that Mother's Day should lead off what I've determined will be Chick Week around these parts.  Chicken, to be exact :) 

A few months ago, I read an article proclaiming chicken to be the most popular animal protein in America.  That didn't come as any surprise since I know we are a chicken-loving household.  We also eat a fair amount of fish, pork products, and ground beef, but chicken takes the cake.  (That sounds weird, but you know what I mean, right?)

Despite so many ways to cook chicken, I've occasionally found us in a chicken rut.  Still have leftovers from that pot pie.  Made fajitas last week.  Grilled chicken is good but... I'mjustnotinthemoodforit.

When in doubt, I always turn to my spice cabinet for some inspiration. 

Sure enough, there was a full packet of gorgeous golden curry powder.  Purchased for a reason now unknown to me, but fresh and begging to be used.

A quick search for curry dishes brought up the obvious -- tons of Indian cuisine.  While I'm not opposed to that, I wanted a recipe that wouldn't require me to buy even more ingredients.  Leave it to my culinary and lifestyle hero, Ina Garten, to save the day with her recipe for curried chicken salad.

Say wha?!  Warm spicy curry mixed with one of my most favorite lunch foods ever?  Yes, please!  This is definitely not your everyday run-of-the-mill chicken.  Jazzed up for sure.

I typically like my chicken salad on the sweet side, chock full of things like dried or fresh fruit and salty nuts.

So, I absolutely L-O-V-E-D how the sweetness of the raisins and apples and creaminess of the light dressing balanced out the spicy curry!  Coupled with the crunch from the scallions and the lettuce wraps, this was the ultimate combination of flavors and textures in one dish.

Could've crunched and munched until the whole batch was gone, I swear!

This would be a perfect make-ahead dish for packable lunches or quick weeknight dinners.  I'm definitely going to be revisiting this recipe when summer rolls around and the nights are hot and sticky.  Nothing like a cool and satisfying dinner ready!

And, the best part is that it gets better after some chill time in the fridge.  That is, if you haven't crunched and munched your way through the entire batch.  Not judging, just sayin' :)

Two years ago: Meringue cookies
Three years ago: Peanut butter cupcakes

Curried Chicken Salad
(adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa's recipe)
-serves 4

A few notes: Like so many soups, chilis, and layered recipes, this tastes even better after a few hours or an overnight stay in the fridge.  It's delicious fresh, but the flavors really meld and marry when they've had a chance to get to know one another.  Try making a batch the night before you plan to enjoy it -- you'll be glad you did.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil, for drizzling
1 apple, cored and chopped
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup raisins
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 bunch scallions, diced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Ground black pepper
Lettuce, for serving
Bread or sandwich buns, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place chicken breasts on lined sheet, season both sides with salt and pepper, and drizzle tops with olive oil.  Cook 20 minutes.  Remove, cool to room temperature, and cube.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix apple, mayonnaise, raisins, curry powder, scallions, almonds and vinegar. Add chicken and toss to combine and coat evenly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or up to overnight, if possible.  To serve, scoop chicken salad into lettuce leaves or onto sandwich rolls and enjoy!

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